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Sen. Barb Goodwin Calls Out Ellison, Other Prominent DFLers Over Nonprofit Scandal

Bill Davis, CEO of Community Action, is under fire for allegedly misappropriating taxpayer dollars.

Bill Davis, CEO of Community Action, is under fire for allegedly misappropriating taxpayer dollars.

On Sunday, the Star Tribune broke the story of a scandal involving a nonprofit organization called Community Action of Minneapolis.

The nonprofit, which is supposed to serve low-income people, used nearly a million taxpayer dollars for things like spa treatments, cruises, and personal car loans, the Strib, citing a state audit, reported.

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Sen. Barb Goodwin (D-Columbia Heights), a member of the Senate Finance Committee and vice chair of the Judiciary Committee, says she first raised questions about Community Action's budget back in 1997. In the wake of the recent state audit becoming news, she's calling for the organization's chief executive, Bill Davis, to be criminally prosecuted.

"He's been doing this for at least 17 of his 24 years," Goodwin tells us. "This is horrendous, that money was being taken away from people who really needed it. They should prosecute him and make the board responsible for the money taken out of programs."

"He stole that money, Bill Davis stole that money, and he needs to be prosecuted," Goodwin continues. "I can't believe he's gotten away with it for this long... [Hennepin County Attorney] Mike Freeman ought to go after him."

Members of Community Action's board during the time in which funds were allegedly misappropriated included a number of prominent DFLers, including Keith Ellison, state Sen. Jeff Hayden, and Minneapolis City Council President Barb Johnson. Ellison and Johnson told the Strib they didn't actually attend board meetings and instead sent proxies on their behalf, but Goodwin says "that's no excuse." (Ellison and Hayden have resigned from the board in recent days.)

"If they are the ones appointed, they are responsible, whether they're attending the meetings or not," she says. "Jeff Hayden is my friend and I really like Jeff, but it bothers me that a lot of people he represents could use this funding, and they're using it to take trips."

Goodwin says she intends to make the Community Action scandal an issue during the next legislative session.

"We can't mandate legal action, but we can certainly affect their budget," she says. "I want [Davis] out of there. He should be stepping down and so should those board members."

"It's a much-needed service," Goodwin continues. "They should be paying [the misappropriated funds] back. [The board] has a fiduciary responsibility that they obviously didn't abide by, and they didn't look closely enough at his budget."

Last night, Community Action posted this statement on Facebook:
Dear Friends and Customers of Community Action of Minneapolis,

In the past few days, you may have heard some stories in the media that have shed a negative light on the organization. While the reports show only one perspective and contain inaccuracies, we are in the process of working with the appropriate parties and clarifying items that have been questioned, making adjustments where needed to strengthen our organization and move forward.

We remain confident in our ability to provide high quality services to our low-income customers, and stay committed to our important work of empowering low-income Minneapolis residents and creating change in our community.

We thank you for your continued partnership and support,
Community Action of Minneapolis
To read the state audit of Community Action for yourself, click to page two.

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Community Action Audit



Send your story tips to the author, Aaron Rupar. Follow him on Twitter @atrupar.